What to Watch for with Preeclampsia
Preeclampsia is a hypertensive disorder. It occurs during pregnancy and results in elevated blood pressure, rapid weight gain, high protein levels in the urine, and vision changes. Other symptoms include headaches and distension of the hands, feet, and legs, vertigo, upset stomach, and bloody urine. This disorder can have deleterious effects on the health of the pregnant woman and her unborn baby.
Preeclampsia Risk Factors and Causes
The causes of preeclampsia are not fully understood. However, there appear to be a number of risk factors associated with this condition. These risk factors take into account the health of the mother prior to her becoming pregnant. If the woman had any of the following conditions prior to conceiving, she may be at an increased risk for preeclampsia:
- Kidney disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Other autoimmune diseases
Similarly, if a pregnant woman has had preeclampsia during a previous pregnancy, or if she is due to give birth to multiple babies at once, she may experience preeclampsia.
According to preeclampsia.org http://www.preeclampsia.org/FAQ.asp, there are several theories as to what the cause of preeclampsia may be. Some medical professionals have theorized that it is due to either insufficient blood flow to the uterus. Others believe it is due to lifestyle factors, including nutritional deficiencies and increased body fat. There are some theories that the immunological response plays a role, and because of this women who have autoimmune disorders are at risk.
Preeclampsia Treatment and Prognosis
There is little available in the way of treatment for preeclampsia. Delivery of the baby usually resolves symptoms. If the condition has not advanced beyond a mild case, marked by slightly elevated blood pressure or urine protein levels, the mother-to-be is often hospitalized for monitoring purposes. The stage of pregnancy often determines how preeclampsia is addressed. If it is early in the pregnancy, a physician will often choose to monitor the mother and recommend plenty of rest and even medication to alleviate preeclampsia symptoms.
However, if it is late in the pregnancy, often the doctor will attempt to begin labor. More severe cases of preeclampsia, marked by nausea, vomiting, severely elevated blood pressure, breathing difficulties, or other symptoms, will necessitate the delivery of the baby, irrespective of its stage of development.
It is important that mothers who experience symptoms of preeclampsia contact their doctors immediately. If ignored, these symptoms can rapidly become worse, progressing to eclampsia, which is very dangerous for both the mother and baby. Women who develop eclampsia can experience convulsions and can slip into a coma. To prevent eclampsia, health care providers will often distribute medication to control blood pressure and injections of magnesium to help the mother avoid seizures. It is important that a woman who experiences preeclampsia prior to the birth of her child be monitored after the birth, as well, because preeclampsia can continue to affect the mother during the post-partum period and lead to serious illness and death.
Preeclampsia's Effect on the Infant
Preeclampsia affects how much blood the baby receives during pregnancy via the placenta. Because preeclampsia that has progressed often calls for early delivery of a child, children born to mothers with preeclampsia are often premature or underweight. According to MedicineNet.com, preeclampsia is thought to play a part in the development of various birth defects and genetic disorders, such as cerebral palsy, epilepsy, and learning disabilities.